In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, driving under the influence or DUI is a criminal offense.
A first time-offender is usually charged with a misdemeanor, while those arrested for DUI multiple times are typically charged with a felony. A first DUI offense, however, can still be upgraded to a felony under certain circumstances, like causing bodily harm to other people while driving drunk.
Whether the DUI is considered a misdemeanor or a felony, jail time, along with hefty fines and other penalties, is specified as a punishment in most DUI laws. Having a skilled and experienced DUI defense attorney increases one’s chances of acquittal or seeing the case dismissed.
However, once a conviction is handed down, the biggest question that’s usually on the mind of the offender is if it’s possible for him or her to avoid serving time in jail. The answer to that is yes, but it will all depend on the judge hearing the case.
The judge can impose alternative sentences.
The judge handling the case has sole discretion on whether or not the offender will serve a jail term or serve an alternative sentence.
When making a decision on the matter, the judge will consider several factors. The type of DUI offense and its severity will be taken into account. The age of the offender will also matter. The judge will also factor in the criminal history of the accused, if any. If the drunk driving incident in question had victims, its effects on them would be weighed carefully. The judge will also try to ascertain if the offender feels any remorse about what happened.
Alternatives to jail
Some of the alternatives to jail that a judge can impose on a DUI convict include:
House arrest—Instead of serving time inside a jail cell, DUI offenders will be compelled to confine themselves within the premises of their residence and wear an electronic bracelet that will sound an alarm if they attempt to leave home.
Probation—DUI convicts sentenced to probation will be released from police custody and allowed to move about, but will always be closely supervised for the entire duration. They will also have to pay restitution, court costs, and probation supervision fees.
Those who are on probation are required to strictly follow specific rules and conditions set forth by the court. Any breach of the said rules will result in revocation and jail time for the offender.
Community service—A common form of punishment for a DUI conviction, community service is often the result of a DUI lawyer using it as a negotiation tool to mitigate a jail sentence. Typically, DUI offenders are made to give back to the community by cleaning up highways and volunteering at charities, although many are asked to speak in front of groups about the perils of drunk driving.
Alcohol or drug rehab— A DUI lawyer can appeal to a judge that his or her client needs a stay in a rehabilitation facility, not a jail, because of an underlying alcohol or drug addiction.
Work furlough – A DUI offender granted a work furlough can go to work during the day, and return in the evenings to a dormitory-style facility.
How to secure these alternatives to jail may vary depending on the state. While the judge has sole discretion on whether to grant them or not, the help of a DUI lawyer in presenting to the court the circumstances of the offender’s case that will make him or her qualify for alternative sentences will be invaluable.
Victoria Brown currently works as the Marketing and Communications Specialist at Law Offices of Brian D. Sloan. Her experiences with DUI cases in the past have inspired her to spread awareness about DUI laws in the United States.